Making home a better place - from Bodø

The Students at Risk programme allowed the student activists Ekin and Lindah to come to Nord University to finish their degrees and continuing fighting for their cause under safer conditions.

Now, they are sharing their experiences with Nord students through their involvement in Bodø's local chapter of the Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH). 

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​Never giving up: Lindah is from Zimbamwe and studies biology at Nord University. Ekin is from Turkey and is a master's student in Business. Both Ekin and Lindah have been victims of police brutality and random arrestations as a result of their student activism in their home countries. Photo: Espen Kvikstad

Peaceful demonstrations met with violence

In Zimbabwe, Lindah and her peers experienced academic cencorship, discrimination against women and high tuition fees. Lindah joined Zinasu, a student activist group for Zimbabwian students, and started organising protests and petitions against the discriminatory conditions.

Speaking up against the government practices did not go down well with the Zimbambwian authorities. Lindah and the other student activists were often met by armed forces on campus when organising protests or rallies. 
–  We were met with dogs, batons, tear gas and guns. They beat us up, they intimidated us, and imprisoned us, Linda says.

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Brutal encounters: Lindah and her peers have experienced police brutality on multiple occasions. In one instance they were met with water canons while sitting down for lunch at their general council meeting. –  All we had were our forks and plates, and the police came fully armed and arrested us, she says. Photo: Espen Kvikstad.
Lindah and her peers also experienced being mocked by professors in class as a punishment for their involvement in student politics. In one incident, Lindah's professor punished her by denying her a seat in a two hour class.

Lindah points out that this would never occur in a Norwegian academic setting.

Arrestation captured on video

Ekin became involved in street protests as a result of an increasingly suppressive political climate in Turkey following the rise and rule of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

–  People started demonstrating all around Turkey against Erdoğan's autocratic regime and Islamic rules, such as alcohol regulations and increasing restrictions on women, Ekin says.

He says that the police often resolved to violence and heavy use of tear gas to stop the demonstrators, which resulted in severe injuries and several deaths.

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Police brutality: Ekin took to the streets to demonstrate against police brutality after a fourteen year old boy was shot and killed by the police in 2013. As a result of his protests Ekin was detained and beat with batons. Now he is sharing his experiences with Nord students through his involvement in SAIH Bodø, where he's currently the president. Photo: Espen Kvikstad

Among the victims of police brutality was a fourteen year old boy who had gone out to buy bread for his family. 

– The boy was targeted by the police and shot in the head with gas capsules. He was hospitalised for five months, but ultimately died from his injuries, Ekin says.

–  Many people took to the streets after this. I was one of them. The police detained people randomly, me included. One year after I got a court order and was sentenced to ten months in jail, which I appealed. This case is currently in the high court.
A YouTube video from the protests shows Ekin chanting protests slogans while being escorted off the street by nearly twenty police officers. Meanwhile, the crowd in the streets are booing at the police. As the police escorted him around the corner they started beating him with batons. 

Praising the StAR programme

Ekin, along with thousands of other academics is currently also on trial process for signing a petition against the government's treatment of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. It was after this that he got the chance to come to Bodø through the StAR programme.

– I'm keeping activism alive in Norway under better conditions, Ekin says.

 Lindah also praises the StAR programme for the opportunities it has given her to keep fighting for her cause.

 – The students at risk programme has helped a lot of students coming here to finish their education. Back home we are constantly intimidated by the intelligence that our education will be at stake if we continue with student politics, Lindah says.

 –  It's a wonderful thing being able to walk home from campus to your apartment knowing nobody's going to follow you, or that when someone knocks on your door you gladly open because you know it's going to be someone nice and not the intelligence coming to intimidate me, Lindah says.  

The StAR programme:

  • Founded by Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH) and The National Union of Students (NSO) in 2012

  • Gives students who have experienced percecution or violence in their home countries as a result of their student activism or protests a chance to finish their degree abroad

  • Nord has welcomed StAR students since 2015. The two current students, Lindah and Ekin, have been in  Bodø since 2017.